Building Bridges

This is a transcript from Samantha Copper’s presentation at The Tenth Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, August, 2007.

Building Bridges

Samantha Cooper is a survivor of alleged mind control, Masonic cult and extreme familial abuse with a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder and poly fragmented multiple (MPD). Originally diagnosed and treated for partial complex epilepsy, many years ago, her condition was correctly diagnosed as a dissociative disorder.  After 10 years of intensive therapy, she is a much happier and changed (though not totally integrated) person. Her topic is “Building Bridges.”

Please use caution while reading to this presentation. It may be very heavy for survivors. All accusations are alleged. The conference is educational and not intended as therapy or treatment.




Three years ago, in August of 2004, I was a speaker at this conference.  It is a fairly long journey by car to get here from my home.  I was here for the entire conference, Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, speaking, attending sessions and talking with the other participants.

To a few people I mentioned that I had pain in my back, neck and shoulders, but I didn’t let it affect my participation.

At that conference I spoke on my experiences with dissociation, and with having Dissociative Identity Disorder, how this affected my life, the process I was following to heal from the abuse in my childhood, and the things that had changed for me.

After I returned home from the conference, because the pain was nearly unbearable, even for me, I finally went to a doctor.

They did an x-ray in the office and the radiologist’s report came back that I needed an immediate MRI.  The results of the MRI were that I had a severely compressed spinal cord, a severely compressed disk in the C5 (cervical) area, severe stenosis of the spine and no spinal fluid in that area.

The doctor read the MRI report, checked my reflexes, discovered that I had almost no reflexes on the right side of my body, and left me in the examining room while he called a neurosurgeon.

He came back and told me that I would be seeing a neurosurgeon either that evening or early the next morning.  And to do NOTHING that in any way might jar my head, neck or back.

He also said that I must have an incredibly high tolerance for pain because he could not believe I was sitting in a chair talking to him when I should have been in excruciating unbearable pain.

He said most people would be lying on the floor groaning in pain, unable to move, with this kind of an injury. He asked how on earth I was coping with the pain.

He gave me a very strong prescription pain medication and told me to begin taking it immediately.

I saw the neurosurgeon the next morning.

It was his day off, so I was the only patient in the office. He examined the MRI films, and examined me. We then went into his office to discuss his findings.

He said “This is where I would usually discuss your options; only in your case you have no options. You need immediate surgery.”

He asked if I had eaten breakfast.  I had, so he considered whether to admit me and perform the surgery that day.

For the next hour I waited in his waiting room, as his staff made calls trying to find an anesthesiologist and a surgical team to perform the surgery. This was just before Labor Day weekend; so many doctors were out of town.

I was very fortunate in that the neurosurgeon had been at a renowned NYC medical center for 8 years and had only recently moved into the area. He had extensive experience in this surgery, and had performed over 800 of this particular procedure with only one minor complication.

Finally his staff was able to arrange for the surgery on Friday morning.

The neurosurgeon gave me very strict instructions about being very careful. He said he didn’t want me to ride in a car, that I couldn’t get bumped even by a large dog, and if I had one to have it put away somewhere. I was not to do anything at all that might in any way bump me or cause any movement or stress to my spine.

My spine was in a very precarious condition.  The likely out come if this was not corrected immediately was that I would be a quadriplegic on a ventilator or dead. Neither seemed a good outcome to me.

You all are familiar with Christopher Reeve’s accident. Well, this was the same kind of injury.

Now this is an excellent example of dissociation at work and how dissociating to this extent can be detrimental to your well being.  This is an extreme example of why the trauma and dissociation must be worked on.

If you are dissociative, and most if not all survivors of trauma are, then you really have no option but to work on this.  It affects your life in more ways than you can imagine.

I often hear speakers say that dissociation was a blessing when we were children and how it saved our lives. And that is very true, without the ability to dissociate the trauma and the reality of my existence; I certainly would not have survived my childhood.

My sister, who had the ability to dissociate, and also has DID, is living a fairly normal existence.

My brother, who for whatever reasons, did not develop the ability to dissociate as well as we had, has had an extremely messy, difficult life and long history of unsuccessful psychiatric treatment.

After you are an adult and no longer in an abusive environment dissociation to the extent that it allows you to totally ignore an extremely painful, dangerous medical condition is a liability.

What worked as a child, is not only no longer necessary, it impedes your present day existence and relationships.

To put my talk in context I need to tell you some of my history.

I am a survivor of alleged familial, cult, and Mind Control abuse.  I have a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder, a complex polyfragmented multiple.

My paternal grandfather, great grandfather, father and uncle were high level Masons. My memories of the cult experiences center on these people. My brother, sister and I were involved in cult rituals.

There was incest, with both parents and other relatives as perpetrators, and child pornography.

My mother’s behavior was erratic, at best. It was extremely difficult living with her since her behavior was totally unpredictable.

My father was absent from home much of the time.  When he was home, he would go from being very energetic and “up” to being withdrawn, remote and quiet, unaware of things around him.

In the earlier years he and my mother had horrendous, violent fights.   Alcohol and drug use played a part in these arguments.

My maternal Aunt worked for the State Department. My Uncle, her husband, was a civilian attached to the Air Force.

Both had high level security clearances. My aunt traveled extensively all over the world in her job.  This was very unusual for a woman in those times.

My sister and I believe that these two people were instrumental in our becoming subjects in the mind control projects.

I believe I was enrolled in the mind control program when I was about 5.

It is my belief that my parents were paid for my sister’s and my participation in the programs.

After I started therapy, I encouraged my sister to find a therapist familiar with DID. My sister had been diagnosed with and treated for manic/depression, rapid cycling bipolar, or borderline personality disorder at various times over the years.

It is not surprising that she also, has DID.

That is a very brief synopsis of my background.

The only way that I know to deal with the dissociation and heal from the childhood trauma is through remembering and recognizing the experiences.

By processing the traumatic memory so that it becomes normal, non traumatic memory.

Processing the memories, recognizing and remembering what happened in your past allows you to function better in your present day life.

This process is what I am referring to as “building bridges”. Because that is what you are doing.

It is what I now recognize I have been doing in my therapy. I am building bridges between my past as a child, and my present as an adult.

I am beginning to connect the dots so that the things that were so traumatic they caused me to create alters, are becoming memory and a part of who I am.

I hope that it doesn’t take anything as drastic as a severely compressed spinal cord to encourage you to work on the trauma.

I can tell you that the surgery on my spine was a very strong reinforcement to me to work on eliminating the dissociative barriers that keep me from experiencing physical pain.

I worked on recognizing and acknowledging pain in many of my therapy sessions after the surgery. I still have to be reminded to pay attention to my body and what is going on.

I am better at this, but still not great.

I recognize that two very strong deterrents to remembering and processing traumatic memories are the feelings of fear and shame that are attached to the memories and the threats that were made to me as a child by the alleged perpetrators.

These threats will no doubt sound familiar to some of you.

There was the “nobody will believe you” and the “they’ll just think you are crazy and then you will be committed, locked up forever. And you know that we control those places.”

The threat that if I ever told or remembered, I would fly apart into a million pieces and no one could ever put me back together (this was a convincing argument for someone who was polyfragmented multiple).

I was to commit suicide rather than tell anyone.  Someone would come and get me if I told.

And of course, the one that is most bizarre to think about was that I had a bomb in my head that would explode if I ever told.

All these were powerful threats to a child.

In my last presentation at this conference I said, “Each time I work through a memory it is just as difficult and frightening as the first time, even if this the thousandth time I’ve done this”. That is not quite accurate for how it feels now.

When remembering and processing the trauma, I am back there, the child again.  But after all these years of therapy, it is not the same as it was when I started out.

I know right away that this is a memory, and that it is not happening today.  I know that this happened to me, that I was this child.

I also know, from having done this many times, that the feelings will subside fairly quickly once I have dealt with the memory. And I know that each memory or painful experience that I recall and work on represents many other similar experiences.

When I work on this one memory, other memories are defused so they no longer bother me.  I don’t have to go into the detail of everything that ever happened to me. That is important to remember.

I recognize that what is happening as I discuss these painful, horrible memories in my sessions is that I am bringing the experiences that were frozen in my child’s mind, into the present where they can be examined and dealt with from an adult’s perspective.

Yes, the memory is, at first, intact and horrible, just as it was “back then”. It is as if I have somehow shrunk down to child size and am reliving it just as it happened.

But on some level, I am also aware as the adult me what I am seeing, hearing, experiencing.

I am aware of the feeling of the child me.

I am acutely aware of the feelings of terror and the horrible shame that I was somehow a terribly defective child.

And as an adult, I can understand it is natural that as a child I felt this way.  But it is not true.

I was not a terrible, disgusting child who did shameful things.  I was just a child who had terrible, disgusting things done TO her.

I did not originate these acts and I had no control over my participation.

While I am progressing in therapy, and things have improved for me, I do not want to minimize the difficulty of working on the trauma or present myself as being “cured” of all my problems.

Anyone working on retrieving memories and recovering from severe trauma knows that this is difficult work.  It is tedious and it is emotionally and physically exhausting at times.

It does get easier as you go along. The difference it makes in your life, in your ability to function, in feeling comfortable in your own skin, in freedom from constant panic, that makes it a worthwhile effort.

Ok, so how does this affect me in how I now am able to live my life, compared to when I first started working on this?

Well, first off, let me say it is hard to live in the present without dissociation when that is how you are accustomed to functioning.

It is odd, and unsettling, when something that is emotionally charged happens, and you are stuck there, having to feel it and know it and wonder what the heck you are supposed to do now?

What is the “normal” response?

Well, I have learned that normal is whatever you do. That is normal, for you.

Being normal was a huge concern to me in the past.

I worried about whether my reactions were normal, and how would a normal person react in this situation?

But, as a wonderful psychiatrist told me, “Why would you want to be normal?  Normal is so boring.  You are special and gifted just the way you are.”

I recognize on an almost daily basis reactions or emotions I have that are rooted in the past.

It is difficult to recognize that I am reacting not because of this particular situation, which if taken in isolation would be no big deal.

I am reacting as I am because of my history.

And because I am aware of that, I can often stop myself and reassess what I am doing before I go any further.

But not Always.

I don’t have to second guess myself constantly. After a while you become very adept at recognizing the kinds of situations that are apt to cause you problems.

If I can recognize that I might have a problem here, I can often use my internal resources and techniques to prepare myself for what I am going to do.

The surgery I had is a perfect example of this.

I know that I am severely claustrophobic, so I knew that I had to prepare for the MRI.

I know that any hospital setting or laboratory type setting is going to be a problem for me, surgery and anesthesia especially, so I discussed it with my parts ahead of time and took steps to explain what was happening and why.

I said, “Yes, when you were little, this happened to you. That was a horrible time. There was pain, it was frightening and you had no control over what was going on.   But this is a totally different situation.  I have a problem here and the doctors are going to fix that problem. They are here to help, not hurt me”.

This is building bridges between the past and the present so that the experiences in my past do not cause me as great a difficulty in the present.

I recognize and acknowledge what happened in the past.  By doing this, I am able to handle situations in the present more effectively.

As I have progressed in dealing with my past, one of the most significant changes has been that I do not have to work so hard at staying grounded in the present. The present is just naturally where I live most of the time.

I experience myself as an adult living in today. I do not have to constantly remind myself that I am an adult, that no one is going to hurt me.

I do not have the uneasy feeling that there is something out there somewhere waiting to ambush me or turn my world upside down.

I now know that the “something” I feared was not outside, it was inside me all along.

At least, that is true since I grew up and was no longer in a cult or mind control program.

It was the fear instilled in me first by my parents, then reinforced by my experiences in the cult, and then tuned and refined by the mind control programmers.

This was fear instilled in a helpless child whose understanding and development was that of a child.

That level of development is what the programmers counted on.  They manipulated the situations to take advantage of a child’s lack of understanding and knowledge.

This living in the present, becoming a functioning adult who reacts and acts from what is happening in the present, rather than from the huge attempt at hiding what was in my past and was in my head, is really hard on long term relationships.

It has been extremely difficult on my relationship with my husband.

After all, the woman he met and married behaved in a certain way.  We have been married for many years, and it has only been in the very recent past 5 to 6 years, that I have come out of the fog in which I lived and been able to recognize what is going on around me.

The person I was, the way I related to my husband, all of that has changed.

There are reasons that I was attracted to this man, and reasons why he was attracted to me.

We suited each other then. We were both expert at ignoring the other’s “foibles”. We had a sort of unspoken pact that “I’ll ignore your stuff if you ignore mine”.

It worked really well for us for many years. It does not work so well now.

This is not to say that we don’t get along. It is a continuous series of adjustments.  And since I am the one who has had 11 years of intensive therapy, I am aware that I am the one who has caused all this disruption in the way we relate.

We have been very fortunate to work with an excellent family therapist who has helped us over the rough spots. And there have been many.

It is actually very healthy that we both are learning new ways to cope and relate to each other. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

It most certainly is not easy or comfortable.

Some “adjustments” become rather volcanic feeling.

It is not so much, I believe, that these would appear to be much different than what other couples do.

It is that I was afraid of feelings in the past, and most definitely was not good at asserting myself or dealing with conflict. So what to others may appear fairly minor FEELS huge and scary to me.

This is another form of building bridges. Our old way of relating did not really work very well for either of us. So now we are building new bridges and new connections that are ultimately more satisfying (if difficult to negotiate) for us both.

On a dissociative, trauma, polyfragmented multiple level, there are other bridges going up.

I have long asserted that I am not and never expect to be fully integrated, whatever that means.

I have observed many others with my history, who also “were” multiples assert that they are now “fully integrated”.

And then they proceed to use different child like voices in describing different situations.  Or they use “we” when others would use “me”. Or someone tells me that they have uncovered a new memory (and an associated alter) years after they had become “totally integrated”.

So I have been highly skeptical when I am told of someone who was a multiple but is now totally integrated.

Yeah, right.

However, (here is the however), I am becoming more and more aware of a certain lack of company in my head.  I use the pronoun me more and more in place of “we”. Because frequently there is no “we”.  At least, not in the old sense.

And the reason for this is that all these internal bridges have been built.

There is no longer a pressing need for my parts to push forward with their thoughts or opinions. In most cases, it is a seamless flowing of information.

That is not to say that I can’t find an alter if I need to. I am certain that most of them are still around in some form. They have simply given up acting independently.

Not all of them, and not all the time, but certainly more often than I ever imagined possible.

The recognition of the memories the alters held in the past does something else. It is beginning to give me a sense of having been a child.

I have often said that it would not have surprised me to learn that I was dropped out of the sky by aliens as a full grown adult.

I simply had no feeling or memory of having been a child.

Now I can actually remember things that happened to me in a sketchy timeline. I have a sense that this preceded that, and this was a result of what happened before.

To me the memories were always distinct, isolated instances, not connected to any thing else. They were just there, terrifying distinct memories.  The smell, the feel, the sights, the feelings were all centered around this one incident with no recognition that other things led up to this; or that other things happened afterwards.

Of course, I knew, in my adult self, that there had to be a before and an after. But it simply was impossible for me to have any sense of that.

That was more frightening than I can possibly describe.

Not having a context made me feel that there was no end to the memories, the fear, and the shame.

It felt like there could well be an infinite number of terrifying permutations of the same experience.  That is truly what I feared, that this was a never ending series of horrible memories.

It happened slowly, piece by piece, without my being aware that it was even happening.


One day I remembered a particular scene and realized that this happened shortly after something I had remembered long before. And then I remembered a training camp which was the same time and place as in a prior memory.

And so I have slowly come to recognize the connections between what were once distinct, separate, and overwhelming situations.  Things do not seem so bizarre and frightening when you can see them in relation to the other things that occurred at the same time.

I have begun to get a sense of having been in a particular place at a particular time and that these different memories are all snippets of what happened then and there.

I have begun to see that there was a plan, a set of rules that were followed.  It wasn’t all random acts of terrible things performed by monsters.

At many conferences I have heard from speakers the importance of forgiveness in your healing.  I have often read that forgiveness is for you, not the other person.

Every time I heard this word I shuddered because I was absolutely certain that there was no way that I was ever going to forgive any of these people.

Fortunately my therapist quietly told me that forgiveness is not necessary to heal.  That I could heal without forgiving the perpetrators.  She understood my anger at what was done to me.

And yet, after all these years of remembering childhood events, I have found myself in a very strange position.  I have come to feel quite comfortable in forgiving my parents, and other perpetrators.

I looked up the definition of forgiveness and it is “to give up resentment of or claim to requital for” or “to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)”.

And that is where I am now.  I will never understand what went on in the minds of any of the alleged perpetrators.  I can never know what motivated them.

And it doesn’t really make a difference.  I am doing the best I can, and what happened in the past is over.  I cannot change it.  Resentment does not in any way change what happened, and it certainly does not make me feel better.

I am most definitely not trying to persuade anyone else to forgive anything that was done to them.

That is something that you decide on your own, if and when you ever feel it is valid in your life.  If you don’t wish to forgive your perpetrators, whoever they may be, that is your right.

Each person’s journey to dealing with their past is theirs and no one else’s.

I am saying that I am very surprised that I am able to forgive.  I believe it is because I have been able to accept and express the anger, hurt, and sadness that I felt.  When I was able to acknowledge that, I began to feel differently about the ones who harmed me.

This is not “letting them off the hook.”  This is about letting go of my resentment so that I feel calmer and happier, and do not have that sore spot any longer that caused me so much pain every time I brushed up against it.

I did not decide to forgive anyone, it just happened as an offshoot of working through my feelings.

There are many things I am still working on and I expect this will be the case for the rest of my life.

I have huge issues with trust and control. I still occasionally go into a frantic cleaning mode when I am feeling anxious or overwhelmed.  This past week I took down all the curtains in my house washed and re-hung them and cleaned all the windows, no doubt because I was coming to this conference.

These are things that I cope with.  I don’t believe this makes me unusual. I feel certain that people who did not come from an abusive background have issues they must deal with also.

Building bridges between the past and the present not only lessens the symptoms from the trauma, it facilitates building bridges in other areas of your life.

Personal relationships improve, panic attacks can be minimized or eliminated, and for me, at least, there is a comfort in knowing my past and understanding my reactions.

It is far less traumatic and stressful now that I have worked through some of this. I don’t think it ever goes away entirely, but it is bearable.

As I recently told my therapist, there is a feeling of calm in my head which is disconcerting.  In the past, though I wasn’t really recognizing it, there was this constant feeling of things caroming around in my head.  Now when I lay in bed at night, there is often calm and quiet.

This is actually difficult to get used to.

Admittedly it still sometimes requires the intervention of my therapist for me to deal with feelings.

When I do recognize and acknowledge the feelings, however painful they are at that moment, afterwards there is an increased feeling of peace in the center of my body.

In speaking here today, I’d like to offer a sense of hope to those going through a process similar to mine. I don’t want to minimize the struggle or difficulty of the work because anyone going through this is going to know it is really difficult.

There is no magic that fixes things.  I do think it is possible to work through this, though, and definitely worth the effort. It is possible to heal from trauma and have a much easier, more satisfying life.